Brock Professor awarded Canada Research Chair

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Brock professor Julia Baird has been named as Brock’s latest Canada Research Chair. Baird, who is an assistant professor in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre on campus, has become the Canada Research Chair in Human Dimensions of Water Resources and Water Resilience. Baird received her PhD from the University of Saskatchewan in Environment and Sustainability, and has focused her academic research on the ‘human dimensions’ of water resources.

Baird spoke to about her excitement in being named a Canada Research Chair, and how the setting of Brock University in the Niagara region has allowed her to expand the reaches and effectiveness of her research.

“[The Research Chair] represents recognition not only of my past work and potential, but also of the importance of water resilience”, Baird stated. “The Niagara region is a wonderful setting for my research. With the myriad uses and benefits of water here, as well as the proximity to the Great Lakes and trans-boundary water governance, Brock provides a wonderful institutional environment in which to do this work. My colleagues, the students and the emphasis on community engagement are all sources of inspiration.”

Baird also explained the concept of ‘water resilience’, which is one of the major factors of her research. With her studies, Baird wants to explore the intersection of water management, governance and socio-ecological outcomes.

“Resilience means different things to different people”, Baird explained. “I take a social-ecological perspective, which recognizes that human and ecological systems are tightly intertwined. What happens in one can have a range of impacts across both systems. These impacts are not always predictable, and there are constantly changes in the systems.”

“In relation to water management and governance,” Baird elaborated, “… resilience means that there are capacities in place and specific attributes that allow groups, organizations and agencies to be able to adapt to change to retain their function and services, and to transform if needed.”

Baird used the analogy of a boat to explain how governance and management interact with one another. The success of‘rowing’ the boat, or the management of water policy, is entirely dependent on the steering of the boat, or the ‘governance’, explained Baird, “If we are steering in the wrong direction, it doesn’t matter how hard we are rowing!”

Baird also spoke to the biggest challenges to water resilience. Climate change was one of the most significant factors, as more frequent changes in climate across the globe will lead to less availability and quality of freshwater resources. Governance can also be an obstacle: if larger governmental organizations do not prioritize the importance of effective water management, it will cause major trouble for efforts at the local level.

Despite the challenges presented, Baird seemed optimistic and explained that being named a Research Chair will allow her more research time and focus on these issues.

“It helps to open doors to start conversations about opportunities for research collaborations with leading scholars both within Canada and abroad,” said Baird.

For more information on the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, visit brocku.ca/esrc/.

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